You are buying a home and the Seller discloses that there was a porch filled in without a permit...
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You are buying a home and the Seller discloses that there was a porch filled in without a permit…

…or a bathroom was renovated, or a garage made into living space – without a permit. The Seller says… don’t worry, I am a licensed carpenter, it’s all built to code.

Do you need to worry?   Absolutely.

Each municipality will have their own protocol but they will be similar. This is what the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) told me.

If you leave the home exactly as it is, you probably will have no problems with the RDN. They are very busy and do not actively look for non-permitted work to enforce but if a neighour (or anyone) expressed a concern that the work was done without a permit, the RDN would then be forced to follow up. Even if the un-permitted work does not impact that person or the surrounding area they have an obligation to follow up.
Built to code but without a permit holds no weight and any upgrades may require that all the non-permitted work be brought up to today’s building code. That could be costly.
Lets assume no neighbours complained. If you took out a permit to do any new work (additions, changes etc – see the list below), the RDN would then require that all the previously non-permitted work to be inspected and permitted. They don’t retroactively permit a home, so it would have to be brought up to today’s building code. Essentially, they treat it as if you are taking out a permit to do the work today.
  • Items that you may have to do include, but are not limited to:
    • Engineers report
    • Drywall removed to inspect the construction
    • Electrical & plumbing updated
    • Rain-screen added
    • Foundation installed or upgraded
    • Any structural components not built to today’s standard would need to be updated.

Depending on the amount of non-permitted work done on this home, this could be a costly endeavour.


So, if you are looking at buying and there is work that the homeowner has done without the required permit, do your due diligence and investigate further.
A few of the more common items needing a permit are below:
  • Construct any new building or structure
  • Construct a new accessory building
  • Make alterations, additions or repairs to an existing building or structure
  • Complete a previously unfinished area in an existing building, (e.g., a recreation room or bathroom)
  • Make interior structural renovations
  • Demolish or relocate a building or structure
  • Remodel or construct a deck
  • Install or alter plumbing within a building or structure or on a property
  • Enclose your carport

Here is a link to the RDN site on what needs a permit and what does not need a permit. CLICK HERE.